Since the launch of the Operation Khanyisa campaign in October 2010, there has been an increase in the number of incidents of electricity theft reported to authorities, says State-owned power utility Eskom.
The campaign, which is a partnership between Eskom, Proudly South African, Business Against Crime South Africa, the South African Local Government Association, Business Unity South Africa and Primedia Crime Line, is aimed at involving the public in assisting in the effort to curb electricity theft.
“We are pleased with the response and support we have received. South Africans are listening and responding. Electricity thieves should take note and be aware that they are being watched by their communities,” says Eskom energy losses management programme national project sponsor Maboe Maphaka.
Further, he notes that, as the campaign gains momentum, more organisations are expected to pledge their support.
He adds that organisations such as AgriSA, the Association of Municipal Electricity Under-takings of Southern Africa, the South African Revenue Protection Association, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) have expressed their support for Operation Khanyisa.
Maphaka urges all South Africans to stand up for the legal, safe and efficient use of electricity, stating that the responsible use of electricity and the combating of electricity theft are the responsibility of every South African.
He stresses that electricity theft is not limited to townships and impacts greatly on the cost of electricity, which affects every South African.
Audits conducted by Eskom, through its Energy Losses Management Programme, in the past few years, revealed that only about one-third of energy and revenue losses through theft such as meter tampering, bypasses and illegal connections can be attributed to residential cus-tomers, while about two-thirds is attributable to business, agriculture and other nonresidential sector customers.
Maphaka stresses that elec-tricity theft is a crime perpetrated by people from all socioeconomic groups. Participants range from households running illegal connections to large industrial companies bypassing meters. This results in lost revenues running into millions of rands.
He asserts that good partnerships with all sectors of business, as well as with the public, will ensure the success of Operation Khanyisa.
The short-term goal of the campaign is to see South Africans use electricity legally, safely and efficiently. In the long term, the partner organisations hope to change the behaviour of citizens to have respect for electricity.
Maphaka encourages the public to send anonymous tip-offs to the Primedia Crime Line by means of SMS to 32211 or the Eskom Crime Reporting Line 0800 11 27 22.
Further, he points out that Eskom is working with the relevant authorities to ensure that the Electricity Act is amended and thieves are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
In October 2010, Engineering News quoted Eskom CEO Brian Dames as saying that legislation and regulatory measures had to be strengthened to allow for the prosecution of those who commit crimes such as stealing electricity and stealing copper cables.
At the time, he said courts often treated such crimes as petty crimes. Maphaka stresses that there seems to be a shift in the right direction and it is encouraging to see some of the stiff sentences handed down by the courts.
“However, if we are to make a significant change in people’s behaviour around electricity theft, the courts must continue to hand down these types of sentences to reinforce the message that electricity theft is a crime and those who are caught will be dealt with accordingly.”
To ensure that sustainability, Eskom has held workshops in various regions, where law enforcement agencies, such as the SAPS, the NPA and the direc-tor of Public Prosecutions, are trained to assist Eskom and the municipalities in strengthening the cases against those who are caught stealing electricity. These workshops are likely to bear fruit.